All that’s required to participate in Peer to Peer file sharing is the installation of the necessary file sharing software that connects a computer to an informal network of other computers running file sharing software. Millions of users could be connected to each other through this type of application at one time. File sharing applications are often free, and easily accessible as a download on the Internet.
Sounds promising, right? Maybe, but make sure that you consider the trade-offs and the very real risks involved. The number of times I have been called upon to rescue a friend’s computer because of system damage caused by Peer to Peer downloading, has convinced me to give this form of file sharing an automatic “thumbs down”.
In the last few days a new computer Trojan disguised as a media file has been described by security provider McAfee Inc. as the most significant malware outbreak in three years. Consistent with this, users of McAfee’s VirusScan Online have reported over 360,000 detections of this new threat
According to McAfee’s Craig Schmugar, “This is one of the most prevalent pieces of malware in the last three years. We have never before had a threat this significant that arrives as a media file.”
The media clip the user thinks has been downloaded isn’t actually present; instead they’re directed to download a file named PLAY_MP3.exe. Enticed to download this file, the user begins the process of infecting their computer with adware.
As Schmugar described it, the user is “left with a fake MP3 file taking up space, a worthless MP3 player, adware that claims not only to not display pop-ups but also to block them, and more adware that successfully displays pop-up and pop-under ads.”
It’s obvious then that Peer to Peer file sharing has inherent risks attached to it. Other issues you need to be aware of if you participate in Peer to Peer file sharing include:
- Privacy: When you are connected to file-sharing programs, you may unintentionally allow others to copy confidential files you did not intend to share.
- Copyright Issues: You may knowingly, or otherwise, download material that is protected by copyright laws and find yourself caught up in legal issues.
- Adult Content: If you are a parent you may not be aware that your children have downloaded file-sharing software on the family computer, and that they may have exchanged games, videos, music, pornography, or other material that may be unsuitable for them.
- Spyware: There’s a high risk that the file-sharing program you’re using has installed other software known as spyware to your computer’s operating system.
- Viruses: Files you download could be mislabeled, hiding a virus or other unwanted content.
- Default Closing Behavior: It is critical that you close your connection after you have finished using the software. In some instances, closing the file-sharing program window does not actually close your connection to the network. That allows file-sharing to continue and will increase your security risk.
I am not an advocate of Peer to Peer MP3 file sharing; however if you insist that this type of file sharing is still for you despite the risks, there are free tools available for download on the Internet that purport to detect fake MP3 downloads.